Olympic forecast: U.S. to top medal table; China, Russia next

Rio de Janeiro
AP
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — If the Rio de Janeiro Olympics were held today, the United States would win the most medals — and the most golds. And American swimmer Michael Phelps would collect five more gold medals and a bronze, bringing his overall total to 28 with a career gold-medal haul of 23.

Simon Gleave has been crunching the Olympic numbers for four years, putting them through a data-processing program as the head of analysis for U.S.-based Gracenote, a sports and entertainment data provider.

“In terms of medal-count and order, it’s going to be close to what we have,” said Gleave, who in 2012, using a less sophisticated program, predicted within four medals the results of 16 of the top 20 teams.

Gleave will issue updates again in June, July and August, just days before the Aug. 5 Opening Ceremony. He expects a few minor changes, but nothing major.

Gleave is picking the United States to top the table with 42 gold and 102 overall. China will be second with 31 gold and 78 overall, which is the same one-two order as London four years ago. The next teams in order of gold are: Russia (22), Australia (18), Britain (17), Germany (15), Japan (12), South Korea (12), France (10) and the host country Brazil (9).

“You could look at this as if these are the stories before they happen,” Gleave said in an interview with The Associated Press.

For years, Italian Luciano Barra has predicted the medal count, basing his results on World Championships results leading up to the Games.

Gleave has gone several steps beyond. He tracks World Championships, Grand Prix events, Grand Slams and even some continental championships — then gives more weight to the most recent events, and the most important events.

Although Gleave has Russia placing third in the gold-medal and overall standings, some Russian athletes could be banned from the games over a doping scandal.

“It’s a bit difficult to know with Russia at the moment,” Gleave said. “We don’t know the sports they are going to be competing in with all the stuff that’s been going on around Russia.”

Gleave also has Phelps down for six more medals — five gold. He’s picking him to win gold in the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m individual medley. He’s had to guess on which relays Phelps will swim, but he picks him for gold in the 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle. And he figures he’ll get bronze in the 4x100m freestyle.

“We are speculating to an extent on the relays,” Gleave said. “But I don’t think that it’s a wild thing to guess.”

A few other highlights from Gleave’s predictions:

– American gymnast Simone Biles will win four gold medals, and one silver.

– Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm will win three golds and a silver.

– Chinese table tennis star Ma Long will win two golds.

– American swimmer Katie Ledecky will take four gold medals.

– Brazil will set a national record with 25 medals overall and nine gold, taking advantage of being the host nation.

– Argentina will win only two medals, its worst performance since 1992 in Barcelona when it won only one.

– Spain’s medal total will fall for the fourth straight Olympics.

The predictions are fun for fans, but they also make money.

Gleave said Gracenote sells its data to National Olympic Committees, including the United States, Australia and Great Britain. It also sells to media clients like the American television network CBS and Canada’s CBC.

“We provide them with data, and they use it in their decision-making,” Gleave said.

Gleave laughed when he was told he was taking all the suspense out of the Olympics.

“As we all know, sport doesn’t always work the way we expect it to,” he said.

MORE: NBC announces Rio Opening Ceremony hosts

 

Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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